“Love and the Nature of True Freedom”
Matthew 22:34-40 Romans 13:8-10 Galatians 5:6, 13-14
Rev. Paul E. Capetz
Christ Church by the Sea (United Methodist),
Newport Beach July 21, 2019
Last week we explored what it means that we are saved by grace through faith. In studying Paul’s brief summary of the gospel in Ephesians, we learned that salvation is entirely God’s gift to us and, as such, is not dependent on anything we do. The appropriate response to God’s gift on our part is simply faith, that is, trust, which is the assurance that God is good and merciful to us. At the same time, we learned that, while we do not earn or merit salvation by our good works, God nonetheless “created us…for good works” which are “to be our way of life” (Eph. 2:10). This is the paradox of the gospel: God gives us salvation apart from works, but God expects works from us on the basis of our faith in God’s grace. The gospel is the good news of a gift, but acceptance of the gift brings with it a responsibility, namely, to love our neighbors.
In Galatians 5:6, Paul speaks of this responsibility as “faith working through love.” Although faith is receptive in relation to God’s grace, it is active as love in relation to our neighbor. Faith receives God’s gift of salvation and then is active in meeting the needs of our neighbor through love. Since the gospel assures us of God’s love for us, we who respond in faith by trusting in God’s love are freed from excessive preoccupation about ourselves so that we can truly be there for our neighbors when they need us. After all, this is what love is: being responsive to the needs of others. Indeed, love has always been the hallmark of Christian ethics. The good works for which God created us and which God intends to be our way of life consist in our love for our fellow human beings. As God has loved us through Jesus, so we are to love others as Jesus loved.